Five Things to Consider Before Buying a Webcam

If you’re tired of hazy images and poor audio during your online meetings, it might be time to upgrade your webcam.

Video conferencing was once something only imagined in futuristic cartoons and sci-fi productions. But today just about everybody is doing it. From work meetings to calls with grandma, to streaming games, to recording a video to upload later, cameras have become one of the most-used accessories on our computers, and yet, some of our computers have lousy cameras, making us look like we’re broadcasting from a long-ago time in another dimension. Fortunately, there’s a quick fix. External webcams take seconds to install and can dramatically improve the quality of your streams and recorded videos. But don’t settle on any camera. Take a look at its resolution, privacy features, and more options before you buy.

Supporting full 1080p HD resolution at 30fps and a built-in stereo mic, this model is great for video chatting as well as home recordings. Logitech

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In many situations, someone wants an external camera because they’re hoping it will be an upgrade from the one included on a laptop or monitor that doesn’t broadcast video or audio as well as others can. That’s why when you’re selecting an aftermarket camera, consider the resolution quality first. For video chatting, 720p resolution is the minimum. If you might want to record videos at a higher quality that you plan to upload to the internet later, you’ll want a camera that supports 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second (fps). What’s also great about a high-resolution camera is that most online conference services now support 1080p, so that means your meetings can be sharper and cleaner.

This device has a stereo microphone that is ideal for gamers chatting online. Logitech

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Some webcams aren’t just cameras, but microphones, too. Why is a good microphone important? It’s pretty simple: having a mic higher up, and closer to your face compared to a microphone mounted near your keyboard emphasizes your voice and helps remove background noise. This is especially important on some laptops where the sound of typing on a keyboard drives everyone else nuts on the other end of your online call.

This model has a secure and intuitive mounting system. Logitech

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This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to think about where you’re placing your new webcam. One of the biggest advantages (especially if you use a laptop) is you can relocate it at a higher angle than your current camera’s view, which may be more flattering, and will be less susceptible to obstructions. For that, look for a good webcam that comes with a well-designed mounting system that allows it to easily attach to the top of your monitor, on a stand, on a bookshelf, or even on its own using a suction cup or double-sided adhesive.

This has an extra-wide FOV. Hrayzan

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Field of view (FOV), in movie terms, describes the width of your camera shot. Most webcams have a FOV of that’s 78-degrees degrees wide, which means if you draw an imaginary line that shoots directly out the center of the camera, it will capture anything within 39 degrees to the left and 39 degrees to the right, and that’s fine for most applications. But, if you have multiple people you want in the frame while you’re video chatting, or if you’re a gamer with a big setup, then it might be worth finding a camera with a wider FOV, say 110-degrees. Just remember the wider the view, the greater the risk of image distortion, and the smaller you’ll appear to anyone watching.

This model has a mechanical lid the blocks the lens to prevent hacking. NexiGo

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The world can be a scary place, and any computer with a camera can become a target for hackers. It’s unlikely, but the idea of somebody being able to spy on you through your own webcam, or that you might accidentally broadcast something, is not great. Some webcams include a physical cover you can place over the lens and microphones, and no amount of digital hacking in the world can get through that.